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China’s Innovation Empowers High Tech Development

China showcased a host of notable outcomes that were enabled by sci-tech innovation in fields such as fundamental and cutting-edge technologies during the past five years. China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS) is similar to a ‘super microscope’, which can be used for studying the microstructure and movement of materials at an atomic scale. Since its successful commissioning in 2018, the CSNS has performed efficiently and stably, reaching the design target of 100 kilowatts a year and a half ahead of schedule.

China’s total R&D expenditure increased from 34.86 billion yuan (about $5.47 billion) in 1995 to 2.44 trillion yuan in 2020. Meanwhile, the country’s expenditure on basic research, a fundamental part of the scientific system, rose from 2.9 billion yuan in 1998 to 150.4 billion yuan in 2020.

Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Key Basic Research Program of China, China made major breakthroughs in basic research fields such as quantum science, iron-based superconductivity and dark matter particle explorer (DAMPE) satellites.

In the past five years, China made great strides in its scientific and technological innovation capabilities, with its investment into basic research accounting for more than 6% of its R&D input for the first time. The country has also witnessed major achievements made in fields ranging from stem cells and synthetic biology to high-speed railways and basic software development.

Thanks to an optimised industrial structure made possible by sci-tech innovation, China has gradually emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse. For instance, in recent years, China’s mobile communication and new medicine development sectors empowered by major special projects witnessed a remarkable development, with the number of high-tech enterprises now topping 270,000 nationwide.

The country’s national high-tech zones generated 13.6 trillion yuan in output, accounting for 13.3% of national GDP. By comparison, from January to August this year, driven by their innovative capabilities, these zones achieved an operating income of 29.5 trillion yuan, an increase of 21.9% year-on-year. In the next step, China will focus on promoting the development of the real economy and advancing the transformation and application of scientific and technological achievements on a large scale.

China’s rising capability in science, technology and innovation to a certain extent has to do with a grand experiment when the Chinese government released the National Medium and Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology (MLP). MLP launched the indigenous innovation strategy and set goals to turn China into an innovation-oriented country.

To be truly innovative, China should pursue a bottom-up innovation policy and improve the market-oriented system. This becomes especially critical as China is fast approaching the frontier of international science. This explains why China encourages enterprises to increase investment in R&D and forms an enterprises-centred and market-oriented innovation system, which deeply integrates enterprises, universities, research institutes and users.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to support the development of key technologies while strengthening the regulation of the country’s tech giants as part of his strategy to expand the digital economy. The country needs to boost innovation in core technologies and step up research capabilities to achieve self-sufficiency as soon as possible. China also called for an acceleration in the development of high-speed, secure smart infrastructure that can connect all aspects of the online economy as well as for breakthroughs in key software technologies.

In recent years, the internet, big data, cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and other technologies have accelerated their innovation and are increasingly integrated into the entire economy and society. China needs to make its digital economy stronger and better to align the once-in-a-century transformation with the national priority of rejuvenating the country.


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